So yesterday I ran the Soweto Marathon. I was unfit and untrained and boy was I was moaning how much I wanted to be in New York running the marathon rather, and I couldn’t stop thinking back to last year, and longing for it.
But you know what, I realised that the greatest race and people are to be found right here, and that there is no better place to be cheered on and to find camaraderie than home. I wrote a few weeks ago here about the five runners who were training for the Soweto Marathon and who were killed by a drunk driver. Well during my last kilometre of the race, a “bus” of runners caught me, most wearing T-shirts to honour the lives and memory of these runners.
It was a group of around 50 runners and as I joined them for the finish, my tears started rolling – for the privilege I have (and am using), and for those who should have been there, but weren’t. Everyone in the group held hands, which made me even more emotional. Here were people who didn’t know each other, and who were simply bonded through a love of running and a collective acknowledgement and support for each other and those lost to us.
Before we entered the finish area, we stopped and there was a moment of silence for the runners, before we headed on, hands linked with new ones – these strangers, these friends. I crossed the finish line in tears and with a gratitude for the people and the soul of this race and country. For every “wrong”, there is a “right” and it was another wake-up bell for me to see the good, and to acknowledge the abundance right here.
What a race. What a people.
Other awesome things about the day:
– A well organised race with plenty of drinks and well-controlled traffic
– A Twitter community who tweeted me and who cheered me on through my phone. What fun it was to chat, and what a lot of strength and humour I received
– The warmth and support from the residents of Soweto, including those who offered the runners beer en route
– The great route
– My new Zigtech running shoes that gave me no problems, despite me only getting them three days before the race
– The two parking guards who helped me look for my car key in the car. Yip, I lost my key in my car. After getting in. I eventually found it in the tiniest crevice under the passenger seat. WTF?
– Castle Lite beer and cheese-free pizza after the race
It was also a reminder of how tough we are, how strong I am. This year has come with so many challenges and changes, but you can’t keep a stubborn runner down.
Some scenes from the day…
On the weekend, five runners were tragically killed when a drunk driver rammed into them, also injuring another. It made me sad – these runners were training for Soweto Marathon which I’m running in two weeks’ time. I might have passed some of these women during a race, they might have helped me one Comrades, or it might have been me.
Max, this isn’t just a sad post. It’s a reminder to try and live now because you never know what’s round the corner. For years people used to tell me how running was bad for me, how I was too young, how Comrades wasn’t going anywhere, how I should wait til after having kids. But I know that tomorrow I might not have the legs or the willingness, and while I can, I will. The biggest reminder of this came in the form of the stalwart of our running community, Gerald Fox, who was tragically killed in 2003. When I run, I remember him and others who can’t – those whose lives have been cut short, those who are injured, those who don’t think they can.
Sadly, it sometimes takes tragedy for us to get the bigger picture, and to appreciate what we have. I don’t always get it right though – I lament, I want more, I take for granted, I procrastinate, I get bogged down by the small stuff. But for now, I step consciously and with gratitude. And this might mean that I will smother you with kisses, hugs and daily “I love you’s”, but while I can, I will.
Seize the moment, Max.
I love you,
It’s a week after Comrades and I have what’s informally known as the Post-Comrades Blues. I miss it terribly, and I’m looking back at it longingly (clearly having forgotten the pain, tears and questions of WTF am I doing this for?).
I often look back at things longingly and want to go back in time – in your case it’s so many things, like your birth, your first birthday, your first steps, our holidays. And it’s good to have great memories and reminisce, but it’s another thing being rooted in the past, which is something I sometimes do.
One of the best lessons I’ve learnt on the road is to not look behind at what you’ve run, nor what you have way ahead. Just stay in the present kilometre and focus on that, and take in the experience wholly. I hope you can do that as much as possible in your life Max, and not be dragged down by future worries or past experiences that appear better than today’s. It’s not an easy feat, but one I am trying to work on, and one that I hope we can both use to enjoy the now and appreciate it more.